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7 common symptoms of a heart attack

Illustration of pink & red heart with squiggly line in front to mimic a monitor.

7 common symptoms of a heart attack

February 01, 2013

Being able to identify a possible heart attack in yourself or others can help save lives.

Here is a list of common heart-attack symptoms that can manifest in both men and women, as provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

* Unusually heavy pressure on the chest, like there's a ton of weight on you

Most heart attacks involve chest pain or discomfort in the center or left side of the chest. It usually lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. It may even feel like heartburn or indigestion.

* Sharp upper body pain in the neck, back, and jaw

This symptom can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, shoulders, neck, jaw, or upper part of stomach (not below the belly button). Pain in the back, neck, or jaw is a more common heart attack symptom for women than it is for men.

* Severe shortness of breath

This symptom can come on suddenly. It may occur while you are at rest or with minimal physical activity. You may struggle to breathe or try taking deep breaths. Shortness of breath may start before or at the same time as chest pain or discomfort, and can even be your only symptom.

* Cold sweats, and you know it's not menopause

Unexplained or excessive sweating, or breaking out into a "cold sweat," can be a sign of heart attack.

* Unusual or unexplained fatigue (tiredness)

Sudden and unusual tiredness or lack of energy is one of the most common symptoms of heart attack in women, and one of the easiest to ignore. It can come on suddenly or be present for days. More than half of women having a heart attack experience muscle tiredness or weakness that is not related to exercise.

* Unfamiliar dizziness or light-headedness

Unlike in the movies, most heart attacks do not make you pass out right away. Instead, you may suddenly feel dizzy or light-headed.

* Unexplained nausea (feeling sick to the stomach) or vomiting

Women are twice as likely as men to experience nausea, vomiting, or indigestion during their heart attack. These feelings are often written off as having a less serious cause. Remember, nausea and vomiting may be signs that something is seriously wrong, especially if you have other symptoms.

If any of the above symptoms persists for more than 5 minutes, health experts recommend calling 911 and getting emergency care. If the symptoms are temporary or recurring, contact your doctor as soon as possible.

If you want more clarity or have questions about heart disease or possible symptoms, you can connect with a doctor anytime on JustAnswer.